One popular belief is that Cannabis kills brain cells and dumbs people down. While many people probably had a stoner friend or two that fried their brains by the end of high school, it may have not necessarily been the bud intake. It could have been a combination of alcohol, other drugs, diet and genetics. And yes, many studies indicate that marijuana can affect brain development in youths. While other researchers say that they don’t clearly understand the impact that marijuana has on adults, and especially youths.*
Because weed was illegal for many years in the USA (top country for medical research), there was a lack of research, including short or long term studies on memory loss. Especially from institutions without a bias against pot.
However, recent studies have indicated something opposite to the long held popular belief. Marijuana does not impair long term verbal and visual processing & can improve memory and brain function.
Short Term Memory (up to 1 minute)
THC affects memory in two ways: 1) Impairing the creation of memories; and 2) by affecting short-term recall of events while high and afterwards. Not as bad as alcohol blackouts though.
New studies show that for most people, the effects are temporary. Also, frequent marijuana users become resistant to the memory impairment effects.
Long Term Memory (lifetime)
For long term memory, there doesn’t appear to be a big difference between users and non-users. Also cognitive abilities were not impaired (focus & processing speed).
Marijuana use doesn’t appear to affect the ability to recall existing memories. Certain strains can affect one’s memory recall while they are high but this ends when the high is gone.
Spatial Memory (environment around you)
Spatial memory is generally affected by marijuana in most people. This means you will remember what happened, but where all the fun was had may be foggy. Unless you are at home (maybe).
Associative Memory (association)
Associative Memory is not affected by marijuana. It is a memory of a past event or place that is triggered by something related to it.
Certain studies have indicated that CBD (Cannabidiol) may offset memory impairment from THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). Thereby possibly reversing or preventing other cognitive issues. For example, various research has shown that CBD may shield against brain cell damage from alcohol abuse – and prevent Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Dementia. Plus, THC can assist with new brain cell formation and reducing inflammation in the brain.
One recent THC study with mice showed that the old mice given THC remembered the same, learned almost as well, and recognized almost as well as young mice.
More Studies Needed
It is obvious that more studies need to be undertaken to fully understand, effects, detriments and benefits. Memory and marijuana is a controversial issue – depending on who is doing the talking and for what reasons. So maybe our fried-out stoner friends didn’t end up like they did, just because of weed. Remember that next time you get high.
* WBUD does NOT support youths smoking marijuana.
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